Go back

WHO closes door on Wuhan lab leak theory

Image: US Mission Geneva [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

Meanwhile, most countries yet to administer single vaccine dose amid rise of new coronavirus variants

Experts from the World Health Organization have closed the door on a theory that Covid-19 leaked from a laboratory following an on-the-ground investigation by its experts at the site of the pandemic’s origin in Wuhan, China.

The theory—based on unsubstantiated claims whose proponents include the former Trump administration—alleged that the virus may have come out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which houses many virus samples. But Peter Ben Embarek, the leader of the WHO mission to China, said experts had dropped the theory due to its improbability, the Associated Press reported on 10 February.

“The findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population,” he said, adding that the virus most likely originated in bats.

Vaccination lag

On the same day, the WHO reported that most countries continue to lag behind in the Covid-19 vaccination efforts and nearly 130 of them have “yet to administer a single dose”.

“Of the 128 million vaccine doses administered so far, more than three quarters…are in just 10 countries that account for 60 per cent of global GDP,” the WHO said, adding, “this self-defeating strategy will cost lives and livelihoods.”

Already, mutations in the virus have sparked concerns over companies’ ability to adapt their products. The Covax facility—an international effort to secure equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines, which the WHO co-leads—warned that vaccine manufacturers “must be prepared” for new variants of the virus.

“Trials must be designed and maintained to allow any changes in efficacy to be assessed, and to be of sufficient scale and diversity to enable clear interpretation of results,” it said on 8 February.

The Covax facility also called for more sharing of genomic data between countries and said that vaccine efforts should prioritise vulnerable individuals.